ANOTHER VICTORY DAY in Moscow — sixty-five years now since the Allied Powers defeated the crisply attired Axis of Nazi Germany and her slightly foppish cohort Fascist Italy. Russia commemorates V-E Day a day “late” because the German instrument of surrender entered into force at 23:01 CET on May 8, 1945 — by which time it was already May 9 in Moscow. For this reason most countries within the ex-Soviet sphere celebrate the end of the Second World War a day later than in western Europe. It is also customary on this day for patriotic citizens to wear the orange-and-black ‘Ribbon of St. George’, which recalls the Military Order of the Holy Great-Martyr and the Triumphant George established in 1769 and revived in 1994. The Order of St. George is the highest military honour awarded by Russia after the paramount Order of St. Andrew.
The military parade in Red Square was accompanied by the usual aeronautical fly-past. Above, from right to left, helicopters carry the Russian flag, the Armed Forces flag, the Naval Ensign (a blue saltire on a white field, the inverse of the Scottish flag), the Air Force flag, and the flags of other components of the Russian Armed Forces.
Very gradually and without much publicity, the Russian government has begun to replace the red stars that top the towers of the Kremlin and neighbouring buildings with the double-headed eagles of old.
What made this the most remarkable Victory Day parade so far was the unprecedented move of allowing foreign soldiers to take part. Governments of the countries to which the Soviet Union was allied in 1945 were invited by the Russian government to send delegations of troops to take part in the march-past. The Communist Party of the Russian Federation (with 57 seats the second-largest party in Russia’s parliament after the 315 seats of the conservative ‘United Russia’ party) expressed its outrage at the inclusion of foreign troops in the Victory Day parade and responded with protests.
This even included a contingent of soldiers, sailors, and airmen from Poland, a country which was the victim of an unprovoked invasion by the Soviet Union in 1939, though Stalin later forged a disingenuous alliance with the Polish government before setting up his own putative Polish power. The Soviets, of course, were responsible for the notorious massacre of over 20,000 Polish officers at the forest of Katyn.
A detachment from 2nd Battalion the Welsh Guards marched in the parade…
A number of militaries from the former members of the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union also participated, including Armenia and Kyrgyzstan.
With a number of high-ranking officials and heads of state in the reviewing stand, security was tight. Snipers were also placed at prominent points to take down any spectators who felt inclined to make Yakoff Smirnoff jokes (“In Soviet Russia, car drives you!”).
Following the parade, Russians engaged in the traditional Victory Day piss-up.
The evening beheld a spectacular pyrotechnic display, a brilliant festival of lights over the Kremlim, smack dab in the heart of deepest Muscovy. The Russians know how to put on a good show.